Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Downed beehive in a tree!

On Sunday I was building a top bar hive with Ursula and Wyatt and received  a call from Annallys. Annallys had a friend with a storm knocked down tree with a beehive in the end of it. So we installed the legs on the top bar hive and headed over to help Annallys. There are only a few of us in the area with a bee vacuum, so we loaded my bee vacuum up and headed over there with bee suits.

This was a sizable hive,  in the center of a 14 inch hollow oak tree. David met us there with his chain saw, stayed a short while and took Wyatt and the chain saw home. A neighbor had already left a chain saw for us to use. Bad move on my part for not checking out the chain saw before David left with his. So when we were ready to cut the log, the chain saw would not start. Tried a hand saw and just could not cut the oak log.

Here is a report on the extraction of these bees. I mainly provided limited help, provided instruction on using the bee vac and took photos and video. Annallys and Ursula did most of the work.

 Above is the bottom of the hive, the tree split right at the bottom. Annallys and Ursula were vacuuming up the bees, normally there would have been more bees on these combs. Annallys pulled two of these combs out that were over 2 foot long, watch the last video below.
 Annallys cutting the comb inside the log.
 Some of the first combs removed  were chewed by Small Hive Beetles so these were not reclaimed for the bees to reuse. I was told they had a huge cluster of beetles on these combs.
 The log with the combs removed after we took a break from vacuuming. A queen was needed as Annallys and Ursula found a dead queen on one of the combs pulled it, it appeared she was crushed between the combs when the tree fell. An attempt was made Sunday night to get a queen to lure away these bees, no luck on that.

This video shows Ursula smoking the bees while Annallys vacuums them up! 
 Here is Ursula vacuuming up the bees with my bee vac.
The video above is the log after we cleaned it out and took a small break from the near 90 degree heat. A lot of bees returned back to the bee log!
Above in this video Annallys is rubber banding in brood comb into an empty frame.
 This video shows Annallys pulling out two combs nearly 2 foot long. She hands them to Ursula and she boxes them for her.

So we started on Sunday afternoon, gave up around 5 PM. Monday Annallys found a queen and on Tuesday she chain sawed open the log, cleaned it up and hived the bees!!! I stopped by without my camera and picked up my bee vac. The bees were happily inside a hive with two boardman feeders inside the top of the hive.

Done deal right? Nope there was a small swarm  40 foot up in a tree over the house, very small swarm. Luckily Annallys had a small hive to lure it into and I just happened to have a swarm lure in my truck. Guess we'll wait and see what happens next.

You know it amazes me, this is twice this year this has happened. Bees find there way into someones house or yard and the people living there end up taking an active roll in helping to rescue the bees! Eliza helped Annallys all along the way, even went with her to get a queen.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Butternut Squash grew on its own!

Early this summer Meg planted 4 hills of yellow squash in the garden. Shortly after planting we had some good rains and the seeds that came up on two of the hills were slightly off the hills. So only 4 plants came up in 4 hills, yet 3-4 seeds were planted in each hill, these were old seeds.

It did not take long to realize we had 2 hills of yellow squash (so far about 8 beautiful squash harvested), a pickling cucumber seeded from last year (4 cukes harvested) and until last week a mystery plant we assumed was a pumpkin. Now were have the answer to the mystery plant it's a Butternut Squash and it currently has 5 squashes on the rapidly spreading vines. No we have never planted Butternuts ever, this must have came from our compost as we do eat them.
 Here is one of the week old butternut squashes in the garden, it is about 6 inches long right now! Below is a male butternut squash flower (6 inches diameter), note there are 3 bumble bees buried inside the flower, I see this in about every squash flower we have.
 This is Manny, that is what we named him. I do call him Manfred where he is bad, maybe most of the time then. He's a Flame Point Siamese cat. Still our female cat Valentine is not warmed up to him yet. She was on the top of my couch while he was on the couch seat the other night. Today Manny was chasing centipedes which are pretty numberous these days in the garden.
 This is Manny chilling out on his favorite chair in the screened porch just before he rolled off the chair. Silly cat....

 The biggest sweet pepper we have ever grown, it measures 10 1/4 inches! Not eaten it yet so I don't know how it tastes. We are finally getting tomatoes, lots of yellow squash,  several Anaheim peppers and a few pickling cukes. The Armenian Yard Long Cucumbers have had lots of male flowers, but no fruit yet. Found another stray cucumber plant in one of the compost bins flowering yesterday.
We decided to cut back on expenses around here, so far we saved $103 a month. I cancelled the land phone which barely worked ($40 a month), Dish Network ($55 a month) and Netflix DVDs ($8 a month). Invested in a big DTV  TV antenna and I'm in the process of installing it, anyone want to crawl under the house to hook up the wires? So as a test I moved the TV into the guest bedroom and brought in the antenna wire and picked up 32 channels. We are 15 miles north of Durham and most of the channels are at least 40-50 miles away.

 These dishes are still on our roof, we do not use either of them anymore, soon to be metal scrap. To think we were paying $125 a month for these. Now we have broad band coming in on out phone line for $40 a month unlimited, Wild Blue was $70 a month and limited, no watching netflix online with it, we'd go over limit. So now we pay $8 a month to stream movies.
 This is our new DTV antenna it's a C490 from Antennacraft I picked up at Radio Shack. Funny the girl that waited on me turns out she was one of Meg's former students grown up. As you can see were are under heavy tree cover, still picked up 32 channels. Not all the channels are usable, the piece of garbage inside antenna picked up 3-5 channels only one was full time. So I'm convinced these antennas do work. Offering again anyone want to crawl under the house and pull the wires?
As you can see the new DTV antenna is not such an eye sore and it is at the back of the house not above the walkway to the house.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bench and raised beds

We worked in a garden for a return customer this past week. Rarely do I get gardening work like this as a handyman/builder. Very pleased to build this bench and raised garden beds and paint them purple!

This project came about from a trip to Italy my customer made last year. She returned with these beautiful 2 x 2 Italian hand painted tiles. The tiles were to be used as an accent in her master bathroom, never happened. So she had these tiles for about a year and really wanted to use them for accents. Finally we added 4 of the tiles to the purple garden beds and 2 of them to the garden bench.

Here is the 12 foot long purple garden bench. I used twice dried pressure treated lumber that is ready to paint right from the lumber yard. The lumber is called Cox Lumber it is not sold in the big box stores (you need to dry their lumber 4-6 months before painting). It is expensive a 2 x 6 x 12 costs $4 more a board to give you an ideal. We primed the bench and them painted with a very high quality paint from Sherwin Williams.

When I took these photos it was 97 degrees, the purple paint was too hot to sit on. The only draw back I could see on this beautiful bench, I love colorful things anyway.

The previous photos did not show the accent tiles I routed into the bench as show above, one on each end of the bench seat. First I made a template with a scrap of plywood and secured it and routed in the cut out to install the tiles. Set them in latex caulk and painted it in.
Above shows the higher quality of the Cox lumber, barely any knots to speak of. One might ask at what angle did we tilt back the bench backrest, it was 15%. You can see the outriggers under the bench with the back supports bolted together with 2 1/2 inch galvanized carriage bolts. Everything is mounted on 4 - 4 x 6s concreted in 2 foot deep. Very comfortable to sit in believe me!
Above is the raised garden beds, one is 2' 8" x 16' and the other is 2'8" x 20'. They are made with Cox lumber 2 x 10s staked in the ground with hidden 2 x 3 stakes. We lined the inside of the boxes with left over rubber roofing to keep the chemicals from the treated lumber from leaching into the soil. The tops were made with 2 x 6s cut down to 4 1\/2 inches wide and screwed down about every 10 inches. We regraded the site by hand and added the creek gravel and medium river rocks in the foreground. The slate patio had been there a long time, the space was not really used with no furniture to sit on.
Here we go the job complete it just needs plants and water.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Second Honey Harvest

Yesterday my friends Ken and Leslie helped me pull 11 frames of honey to be harvested. We all had other things to do with the rest of the day so I placed the honey in a closed tub in the living room. Glad to report ants did not find it.

Early this afternoon Scott who I'm mentoring on beekeeping came over to help uncap and extract the honey. Meg took these photos before heading off.
Yep that is yours truly with a frame of honey from my mother hive. When we harvested the first time we pulled, harvested and replaced a super on the mother hive. There was another super nearly full of honey and 5 frames were ready to pull as you can see. The first removed super was looking pretty full so we felt the bees had plenty of honey.

The April 16th swarm bees down on the farm we pulled 4 frames from them, those bees are my best bees. The other two frames pulled were deep frames on the Hillsborough cutout hive, they have loads of honey.
 This is Scott cutting cappings off a frame full of honey. The box in the back right has the empty frames was already spun in the extractor.
Doesn't that honey look yummy? Best tasting honey thus far IMO and we harvested 3+ gallons of honey today!

Here we are cleaning out the extractor we borrowed from Ursula and David. The bees are pretty good at this, they do not waste a single drop. You know we drained the extractor and let it set for maybe 15 minutes, collected another pound of honey that settled down the walls of the extractor.
So we had maybe 5-6 pounds of wax cappings covered in honey. We drained it for over an hour into the honey bucket. Then I took it out to the bees to clean up. I was out there without protection with 10,000 - 15,000 bees feeding like crazy on honey. Am I crazy, no stings, good bees.
As mentioned we crushed and strained one deep frame of feral honey, here the bees are cleaning it up as well.
I'm sorry I never shared this with you. We did a huge extraction at Ken and Leslie's on June 10th. Here is the hive from inside this empty old house on their property. We ended up taking a split from this hive, it was too big for just a day job. We found out at the end of the day that this was just 2/3s of the actual hive. All the eggs, larva and the queen were in the stud bay to the left of this cut out.

So now the split at Ken's has a laying queen and the hive inside the old house is covered in plexiglass and draped so they can observe the bees when they want to. Leslie crushed and strained about 25 pound of feral honey, she gave me about 10 pounds, man is it tasty.

Here's a report from yesterday hive inspections:

Mother hive is doing great we pulled 5 frames of honey and replaced them after extracting.

Lindsey hive has more bees on their porch than all the hives combined. Had an accident while inspecting. New cross comb was cut free and fell into the hive. Recused a block of brood about 4" x5" and gave the rest of the comb with nectar back the the bees.

Mother's Split hive is in trouble. No queen for the second time this year. Small Hive Beetles at least 100 seen with many killed. Just drone brood and what looked like a big queen cell, we hope that works. One frame side was covered with drones, 6 frames total covered in bees in the brood chamber, lots of black older bees, not good. I'll check them in a week or so to see if there is sign of a queen. Placed a beetle trap under the hive.

Hillsborough Cut Out hive pulled 2 deep frames of honey, the hive has 2 deeps full of honey. These bees are very active and I did not look into them very much as the home made frames are hard to pull out being so full of honey and burr comb.

Home Sweet Home TBH a few beetles, they are moving slowly and have a nice brood pattern.

Farm Bees we pulled 4 frames of honey and they are looking strong.